Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Ghost of Jean Améry

Incidentally I'm undertaking an unguided reading of Being and Time, a text I've ransacked on occasion. Not that I've sworn off ransacking. I haven't. But having entered into the text with a question in my mind (the question of the question) it became unmistakably clear that a challenge had been issued to keep the question open, and, more broadly, to keep questioning open, which also means to keep interpretation open, to inhabit the text in the light of day unclouded even by questioning, to be as it were unguided by questioning. My allegiance to questioning is apparently uncertain. Could a questioning not be a part of a zeitgeist? Could it not slip away?

Levinas, I surmise, was no stranger to questioning. Was. Is there anything of his secrecy left to discover–as if that weren't the problem right there, in the very attitude of openness, the willingness to sacrifice anything to openness, everything for the sake of openness. That's not, however, how I live, not how anybody lives. Somebody pitches a tent on the nudist beach and nobody bats an eye. No point in going to extremes. Archeologies, autopsies, necromancies, cameras, every kind of cold, hard postmortem examination. A morbid image: a spiral-cut Fido. I marvel at the efficiency of my disposal. I should apologize for daring to read a text, a supermarket flier. Someday I won't be able to plan for next week's meals. I have plans for that day as well, perhaps secretly knowing that the truth is not nearly so mundane. I am out of countenance at the thought of death.

If I feel any ethical obligation towards the dead thinker it is only out of respect for our plurality, dear reader. Let's harken the dead thinker:

Memory recaptures and reverses and suspends what is already accomplished in birth–in nature. Fecundity escapes the punctual instant of death. By memory I ground myself after the event, retroactively: I assume today what in the absolute past of the origin had no subject to receive it and had therefore the weight of a fatality. By memory I assume and put back in question. Memory realizes the impossibility: memory, after the event, assumes the passivity of the past and masters it. Memory as an inversion of historical time is the essence of interiority.

(Totality and Infinity, p. 56)

I ask your forgiveness for any possible trivialization of our mortality. I haven't called Emmanuel to our seance in order to force a confession, or a cold realization, but simply to learn–dreading, perhaps, that such an ambition may be enough to break a thing so fragile as the life of the mind. "The psychic life, which makes birth and death possible is a dimension in being, a dimension of non-essence, beyond the possible and the impossible" (p. 57). Do I misremember fragility? Memory unfolding in a dimension of non-essence. Failing to grasp the non-essential questions. Not being in step with the leader of the psychic life. Out of countenance. Out of out-of-the-questions. It's not surprising then to see Jean disappearing behind a door. The book that would close the book on memory has yet to be experienced. The book asks for memory as if to resist the deadness that accompanies the fetishization of the letter, revivifying a belletristic enchantment that somehow wouldn't lapse into phoniness, not this time. I encounter our plurality as a call not to lapse into phoniness, as if panecastics required that I lay my memories on the table, open them up to the opening of questions, and, at once, an invitation to step into a non-essential dimension of interiority, perhaps we might call it ours, not measured beforehand but measured in the very stepping into it, with no assurance that memories will remain intact, that questions will remain open. I thank you for your time.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:31 PM.


Blogger Andrew Louis said...

"Being and Time", excellent!

It's made a mockery out of me on three occasions now. It will be interesting to read the commentary of someone on the higher end of the IQ bell curve.

November 06, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks for the compliment, Andrew. Actually, though, I hadn't planned on doing much of an interpretation other than questioning the question and then trying not to be guided by anything prethought, not even questioning. If you had any thoughts to throw out there I'd be interested to hear them.

November 09, 2008 9:35 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 10, 2008 7:06 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Well, Heidegger says:
“Every question is a seeking. Every seeking takes its direction beforehand from what is sought. Questioning is a knowing search for beings in their thatness and whatness....

As a seeking, questioning needs prior guidance from what it seeks. The meaning of being must therefore already be available to us in a certain way....”
(or for that matter the meaning of anything be known before hand.)


There’s a problem here as I see it, and that is, the wretched stench of presuppositionalism, not to mention circular reasoning.. I have no real problem with this, but we may as well [then] be having a conversation about the Tao, or of God. In a way, I’m not convinced there is even a difference. Certainly in Heideggers case he rightly agreed with DT Suzuki and believed him to be someone who was saying what he had been trying to in vein.


Heidegger again:
“To have to determine beings in their being beforehand and then on this foundation first pose the question of being – what else is that but going around in circle? In working out the question do we not presuppose something that only the answer can provide?”

Of course Heidegger will go on to argue that there is no presupposing and no circular reasoning……

November 10, 2008 7:08 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Yes well that's the passage that got me started this time. Dylan suggested a lot hangs on the interpretation of "direction" or guidance. I don't know. I didn't think much of Heidegger's dismissal of the critique of circularity; he may of blinded himself to a contradiction in his thinking—for what reason? In any case the interpretation of guidance could have been worked out more. Of course there is a political sentiment there that I don't agree with.

November 10, 2008 2:18 PM  

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